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The Catholic Church’s fight to keep ‘cultural Catholics’ at Census time

By Si Gladman

The next Census in 2026 will likely be a watershed moment for our nation, with the proportion of Australians identifying as not religious set to overtake Christians and the total religious affiliation set to fall below half the population.

The dramatic decline of religion is, no doubt, the reason leaders of the Catholic Church are experiencing palpitations about proposed changes to the religion question in the Census.

In The Australian, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe urged the federal government to reconsider the proposal of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to change the religion question. He argued that changing the question’s wording and introducing a write-in-only option for people of faith would introduce a new bias in favour of ‘no religion’ and “weaken the accuracy” of Census data.

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“The likely driver behind the backlash to the ABS’ proposal is fear of losing even more 'cultural Catholics' – those who don’t buy the theology but may identify as Catholic at Census time for some tenuous reason."
Si Gladman

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